On board Silurian
Silurian is HWDTs research and
Most weeks April through October she is either monitoring
the waters of the west coast of Scotland for whales, dolphins, and
porpoises, or serving as a floating classroom for one of the many Argyll
island primary and secondary schools.
log below to find out what Silurian and her crew have been up to each
week and all about the whales, dolphins and porpoises they spot!
To find out about the latest marine life sightings spotted elsewhere,
If you would like to send the crew an e-mail with your questions click here.
Click here to view the Silurian Log archive.
Friday 11th May 2012
Anchorage: Loch Spelve
Position: 56°24.561’N 005°44.332’W
Distance travelled: 44.3NM
Our final full day surveying on the Silurian is drawing to an end with a lovely sunset bathing us all as the boat swings around its anchor. The day started with an easy cruise down Loch Sween where grey seals were spotted swimming and bottling. The clouds were gathering threateningly but we had no rain (despite more pessimistic forecasts) but as we swung round the headland to cross the Sound to the East coast of Jura, the wind sliced through our thermals and our already soggy gloves discovered new depths of wetness. The waves became mountainous (according to our imaginative skipper- more like 1 metre swell) but we heroically hung on. The wind was gusting to 35 knots and although the sun began to shine, the wind chill factor meant that before reaching the Gulf of Corryvreckan (a permanent whirlpool), Olivia called us off effort to warm us up inside with a wonderful macaroni cheese… which we all promptly took outside to eat because of the rich potential for sightings and a temporary sunlit lull in the waves. Around this time a phenomenal 75 guillemots were recorded over a period of 15 minutes. As we headed towards the Sound of Luing, flocks of feeding birds raised our anticipation of seeing a minke whale but as we approached the night’s anchorage, all we had logged were grey seals and porpoises (which were of course delightful!).
Today John our skipper put himself in the running for a gold medal in the Silurian’s 2012 Olympic Snail-Sailing Race, achieving 1.2 knots at full steam ahead (which he sustained for almost an hour!). Another evening of anchor entertainment was had as Emma, John and their glamorous assistant, Chris, attempted to anchor in “GLOOP” (John). And now we are replete with Alison’s wonderful veggie chilli and Olivia’s hearty apple crumble. Apparently a main aim on the Silurian is to fatten up the volunteers. It’s working!
Thursday 10th May 2012
Anchorage: Fairy Isles
Position: 56°01.773’N 005°35.332
Distance travelled: 42.8NM
We were soaked. We were frozen. We were alone on the high seas! Not a watery beast to be seen, although the occasional bird and creel bewitched the eye. Highlights of the day included some exceptional Risotto di funghi made by the same hands which steered us over boiling waters and unknotted an anchor chain at the end of the day. EMMA. Our heroine. Aided by Olivia who stowed the chain pixie-style with her shinty stick. John our skipper was alright as well. Although his (already diminished) love of rain deteriorated as the day went on, he persevered through the lashing drizzle after a disappointing attempt to anchor in Tayvallich where the anchor wouldn’t hold. We sailed round to the Fairy Isles which are far superior in beauty and atmosphere. No actual cetacean sightings, but 7 harbour porpoise acoustic recordings. Bird sightings were recorded for the first time today following Oliva’s expert and informative bird briefing. Birds sighted included gannets, razorbills, guillemots, shags and kittewake. After heartily enjoying the delicious spaghetti bolognaise and exquisite chocolate-dipped strawberries (thank you Irene and Chris!) a seal quiz followed and we discovered that a sure way to distinguish grey from common seals was to record the opposite of Chris’s choice. Maybe this will work in real life too?
Wednesday 9th May 2012
Anchorage: west Loch Tarbert
Position: 55°57.946’N 005°54.723’W
Distance travelled: 55.3NM
A long day of fabulous weather conditions and excellent company. Out past Treshnish & Staffa, through the Iona Channel and on past Colonsay to the entrance of the sound of Islay then passed the raised beaches into the marvellous West Loch Tarbert. Some good porpoise sightings and lots of bottling seals but sadly nothing bigger. The usual lovely bacon butties, leek & potato soup, lots of tea & biscuits to keep us fortified. All the volunteers except for Phil went up to the crow’s nest for a while. As we were coming into anchorage at Jura we sighted a number of seals with pups basking on the rocks. We had a wonderful dinghy ride this evening up to the very top of the inner pool of the loch; a marvellous remote corner of this wild island that not many visitors to the Hebrides have the privilege of experiencing.Finally we had a marvellous chicken curry followed by a de-brief from Olivia. Now for a fearful night of chain-rattling Vikings at the prow of the boat.
Tuesday 8th May 2012
Anchorage: south Gometra
Position: 56°28.849’N 006°16.093’W
Distance travelled: 24.4NM
A new group of volunteers aboard Silurian- and what a group… after a good morning’s briefing we were keen to get started with the relaying, sighting and computer updates. The rota worked and we even managed to stay running to time. We had some sightings, including an unidentified dolphin (x2?), a harbour porpoise, lots of birds and grey seal. The hydrophone detected 9 instances of harbour porpoises. There were also lots of creels (identified by a pair of orange buoys attached to shellfish pots), lovely food a la Emma and Phil and plenty of cups of tea. The sun was shining and the sea stayed relatively calm; the scenery was spectacular and the final mooring of the day a most beautiful, tranquil bay where we were greeted by a jolly common seal. Then all of us, minus Phil (today’s cook) and Olivia who was busy checking the day’s data, jumped into the rib and motored gently to Gometra where we quickly scaled the hill to enjoy the view of the Treshnish Isles and the Ross of Mull. Good company, great food and fine wine!! The end to a brilliant day.